Husserl and Spatiality : A Phenomenological Ethnography of Space book cover
1st Edition

Husserl and Spatiality
A Phenomenological Ethnography of Space

ISBN 9780815361558
Published November 30, 2021 by Routledge
266 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Husserl and Spatiality is an exploration of the phenomenology of space and embodiment, based on the work of Edmund Husserl. Little known in architecture, Husserl’s phenomenology of embodied spatiality established the foundations for the works of later phenomenologists, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s well-known phenomenology of perception. Through a detailed study of his posthumously published and unpublished manuscripts on space, DuFour examines the depth and scope of Husserl’s phenomenology of space. The book investigates his analyses of corporeity and the “lived body,” extending to questions of intersubjective, intergenerational, and geo-historical spatial experience, what DuFour terms the “environmentality” of space.

Combining in-depth architectural philosophical investigations of spatiality with a rich and intimate ethnography, Husserl and Spatiality speaks to themes in social and cultural anthropology, from a theoretical perspective that addresses spatial practice and experience. Drawing on fieldwork in Brazil, DuFour develops his analyses of Husserl’s phenomenology through spatial accounts of ritual in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. The result is a methodological innovation and unique mode of spatial description that DuFour terms a “phenomenological ethnography of space.” The book’s profoundly interdisciplinary approach makes an incisive contribution relevant to academics and students of architecture and architectural theory, anthropology and material culture, and philosophy and environmental aesthetics.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Spatial description

Chapter 1 Phenomenon and method

Fieldwork as methodological clue

Sensing history

Chapter 2 Corporeity and spatiality

Constitution and experience

Visual space

The spatial phantom and time

Tactual space, motility, and the lived body

Corporeity and time

Chapter 3 Space and the Other

The genesis of space

Empathic spatiality

Generative space

Chapter 4 A phenomenological ethnography of space

The reunião

Epilogue: Umweltlichkeit




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Tao DuFour is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture at Cornell University.


Husserl and Spatiality is a whirlwind expedition through central Husserlian concepts in relation to the central problem of what constitutes a space. As I read about DuFour’s childhood memories, and his descriptions from his rich ethnographic study of the spaces and practices of the Brazilian religion Candomblé, his writing seemed to linger and cling to the walls of my room, building tangible horizons and creating ripples of effect in my understanding also of my own surrounding environment. This book will inspire interpretations of the world that favour empathy over power, bodily engagement over subjective self-centeredness, and historical meaningfulness over relational flatness. It is a much-needed call to reinterpret spatial relationships in ways that allow the past to gently touch the future.

- Henriette Steiner, Associate Professor, Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen

Part radical re-reading of Husserl, part phenomenology of Afro-Brazilian ritual, DuFour’s is an astoundingly original take on space as the constitutive ground of all lived experience. The ethnography of ritual here becomes the litmus test of the deepest stakes of human experience—both condition of possibility and the generative source of human relationships, replete with embodied history and affective significance. This is what DuFour calls environmentality—a tour de force of life-driven conceptual creativity.

- Martin Holbraad, Professor of Social Anthropology and Head of the Department of Anthropology, University College London